May 13, 2021

Redirecting User Profiles and Data using FSLogix and vSAN File Services

This blog highlights how vSAN File Services can be used to redirect profile and user data.

One of the cool new features released with vSAN v7.0, is the vSAN File Service. The vSAN File Service is a layer that sits on top of vSAN to provide file sharing capabilities. It currently supports NFSv3, NFSv4.1 and as of v7.0 Update 1 has been extended to support the SMB protocol for the creation of Windows file shares to support Windows end users. The service is available within vSAN and can be easily enabled and managed at the cluster level in the Configuration vSAN Services portion of the UI. 

Organizations that use file NFS or SMB file sharing will understand why this is important. Here are four reasons to implement and deploy vSAN File Services: 

  • Reduced management – Managing a vSAN environment requires considerably less effort than the management of physical arrays and filers and in addition, requires no SAN administrator to configure and allocate storage as this can be accomplished by vi administrators, developers, or other privileged end users. The vSAN File Service supports Kerberos and Active Directory authentication, data encryption and storage policy-based management. 

  • Ease of use – vSAN File Service provides NFS and SMB protocol file sharing using existing vSAN storage eliminating the need for racking, stacking, and configuring physical arrays. Setup of the first file share can be accomplished in a matter of minutes of the vSAN File Service deployment. Managing a file share created with vSAN File Service is no different than managing traditional file shares. 

  • Reliability – Using storage-based policy management, vi administrators can ensure data integrity, and availability. vSAN distributes data over drives and hosts to ensure that data is always accessible. With vSAN File Services you can expect that same availability because vSAN is at the foundation of vSAN File Services. 

  • Scalability – vSAN clusters can scale to maximum of 64 nodes per cluster enabling massive amounts of performant storage at a fraction of the cost of a physical storage array or filer. Consider the cost of an array or even additional shelves, cabling, and installation for an existing array versus an additional server with the required amount of storage. 

In our reference architecture paper VMware Horizon 8 on vSAN and vSAN File Services, we put the vSAN File Service through its paces and set out to tackle the business use case of redirecting user profile and data to file shares created using the vSAN File Service. This paper covers the results of the baseline, single file share and multiple file share tests. 

We created a test virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environment where we deployed virtual desktops with the more commonly used applications in organizations. We tested this solution using vSAN v7.0 update 1 and update 2 storage and the vSAN File Service using SMB file shares. Using a single SMB file share, we installed Microsoft’s FSLogix on the Windows 10 template virtual machine to complement the solution and redirected the user and Microsoft Office profile and user data to a file share served by the vSAN File Service. Using FSLogix gives the effect of offloading the reading and writing of multiple sources of data in the user profile and placing it in a virtual disk file. Using this method changes the I/O profile from file I/O to block I/O. In many cases, block access is more preferential to arrays than file access as it places greater demand on the storage due to the nature of processing small and medium sized data files. 

To drive the solution, we used the industry benchmark Login VSI. The benchmark tool creates an environment that simulates a knowledge worker performing tasks using the installed applications consisting of Microsoft Office Suite (Exchange, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint), Adobe Acrobat Reader as well other installed applications and utilities. 

In figure 1 below we show a representation of the services of the vSAN File Service. The service can support Linux, Windows users, and container-based applications. 


Figure 1. VMware vSAN v7.0 U1 and greater File Service  

VMware vSAN File Services provides file sharing support for NFS, SMB, and container-based workloads while automating the management of SMB file sharing management. You simply follow the installation prerequisites and enable the service and create your file shares. Availability and management of the service are all automated. In our paper we created a test environment of virtual desktops where we redirect the user and profile data to the vSAN File Services file share and compare the performance to a manually created Windows Server 2016 virtual machine with file sharing services enabled. We then create four Horizon desktop pools and four vSAN File Services file share and test redirection and performance of the vSAN File Services. To verify the data was intact, we tested the integrity of the data by testing failure scenarios of the File Service Virtual Machine (FSVM) and unexpectant host loss. In both scenarios the file shares were available and functioning to the virtual desktops upon login and no user and application profile data was corrupted or lost. All data was able to be read and written using the Login VSI benchmark tool. The paper details the test results for single share and multiple share sharing. You can view all recorded test results in the paper located here. 

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